Where is loud music allowed? Business in limbo over B.C.'s new health measures
VANCOUVER -- This week’s new provincial health order is striking the wrong chord with a White Rock business.
Blue Frog Studios is in limbo as it tries to sort out whether it’s impacted by new measures that crack down on indoor gatherings at nightclubs and banquet halls.
The big question for the venue is all about music.
“It’s pretty tough right now. It’s quite a bit of chaos,” says Blue Frog Studios owner Kelly Breaks.
On Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry shut down nightclubs and stand alone banquet facilities. But she also said music or other background sounds are to be no louder than the volume of a normal conversation.
“We are a live music venue with live bands,” explains Breaks. “It’s going to be very, very difficult to have any kind of band playing to be at a conversational level.”
Before the pandemic, Blue Frog Studios did more than 200 live shows a year, bringing in about 80 per cent of their revenue. They were shut down for months as they replaced theatre seating with tables and chairs and installed plexi-glass. They recently re-opened for music events with an audience of just 30 in a room that originally held 100.
“We weren’t really making money at this but it was some money coming in to help offset all the expenses that we have,” explains Breaks.
But now, they’ve had to cancel shows as they seek clarity on whether they are impacted by the new measures. And days after the order was issued, Breaks says health officials still have no answers.
Juno award winner Jim Byrnes has three upcoming shows at Blue Frog Studios.
“It’s not a nightclub. People don’t get up and walk around or go get drinks. There’s no dancing. It’s a sit-down theatrical listening room,” he said in an interview with CTV News.
He says the pandemic has been particularly hard on musicians.
“I feel so bad for so many musicians. I’m in good shape but some guys that really depend on this for a living, they live hand to mouth and week to week,” says Byrnes.
Meanwhile, Anita Huberman with the Surrey Board of Trade says it’s frustrating that a business that was following all the rules is now in limbo.
“When the provincial government issues an order for businesses to close or for restrictions, there needs to be some clarity related to that,” she said.
“The owners of Blue Frog have been quite innovative in terms of their physical distancing, spacing between musicians and the audience, the spacing between the tables."
Breaks says it’s been stressful as they try and decide how many shows they need to cancel.
“I’ve got the bands and all their people calling me. I’ve got ticket holders saying, ‘Are the shows still on?’ I’ve got our staff waiting around, do we come to work or not?”
Says Breaks: “We’ve been hanging on by a thread for six months now…(the new order) is going to make things really, really difficult .”
He’s hoping for clarity from the province will hit the right note for his venue.